Author Bio: Bill Blais is a writer, web developerandperennial part-time college instructor. His novelsinclude Witness (winner of the Next Generation IndieBook Award for Fantasy) and the Kelly & Umber urban fantasy series. Bill graduated from Skidmore College before earning an MA in Medieval Studies from University College London. He lives in Maine with his wife and daughter.
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Rola: Kelly, the protagonist, is a 38 year old faithful wife and soccer mom and also a demon huntress in her spare time. What attracted you to writing about such a topic?Bill Blais: Because I didn't see anything else like it out there, which felt like a very sad thing. I guess I'm old, but I'd been looking for a story to read with a strong protagonist that I could really relate to, and while there are plenty of strong protagonists, particularly in urban fantasy, I wasn't relating to any of them. In most cases, male or female, they were either too clever, too smart, too strong, or too (yes, I'm definitely too old) promiscuous.
I realized, then, that I was looking for heroes I could actually believe in; people less 'super' and more 'normal', but still able to overcome intense adversity when properly motivated. Perhaps conceitedly, I thought of it in terms of people more like me, which is really the origin of the main character in my first novel, Witness.
The idea for No Good Deed was actually centered around a character that didn't actually make it into the book (though she appears in the sequel, Hell Hath No Fury), but after a Readercon panel discussion about the almost wholesale absence of positive parent figures in literature (YA, particularly, but by no means exclusively), Kelly McGinnis took center stage and what had been just an idea immediately became a complete story.
The core of Kelly's character starts from a similar 'more like me' place, but in writing about a woman, a wife and a mother, I would be reaching well outside my comfort zone and certainly beyond any first-hand experience (I wrote both NGD and HHNF a couple years before I became a father). The challenge was too good to pass up, though. Did I succeed? I like to think so, but I also was once certain that I would be a superstar math genius who graduated from MIT (hint: not so much how things turned out).
Rola: What was your favorite scene to write in No Good Deed?Bill Blais: Hm, that's a tough one, actually. My stories often start as visceral but orphaned scenes that I am compelled to find the 'parents' and 'children' of. As I mentioned before, though, the inception for No Good Deed involved a scene and character that didn't actually appear in the book. As such, there wasn't that one scene driving me forward to get to or work out from.
However, since this was my first story with a kind of 'elite force' group, I definitely had a lot of fun with Kelly's introduction to the team's secret base. Without giving anything away, I had a great time playing with the space (drawing potential layouts brought me back to doing the same kind of a thing as a kid) and its contents/occupants (things like the mask and Kiichi were a blast to discover hiding around corners).Rola: There are many characters in the novel that play key roles. Which character, other than Kelly, did you feel the most connected to while writing the novel?
Bill Blais: I suppose I should say Umber, but I really didn't feel as 'connected' to him. This was largely because of the 'otherness' of what he is, though, rather than him being less real to me. It was very important to me that he not be just an easy 'type'. I don't want to say too much about this, but Umber is precisely what he is, for better and for worse, and for me to be 'honest' about this meant not having an easy connection with him. He's grown on me, but that's a conversation for Hell Hath No Fury.
That said, I want each character to be as realistic and believable as possible, so I try to really get to know each one. Marianne comes to mind as an unexpected grounding point and each of the team members struck a chord with me (even Suni); Kelly's family are obviously all dear to me; Gernish's enigmatic presence was fun to play with; even Simone spoke to me (though it's always a bit disturbing to recognize that it's not just nice characters living in my head).
Honestly, though, the more I think about it, the character I most truly connected with in No Good Deed, besides Kelly, was Linwood, a character who is barely 'on screen'.Rola: Were there any inspirations behind No Good Deed?
Bill Blais: Well, the Readercon panel and my desire to write a more realistic (in my view) hero inspired the story as a whole, but the individual characters are generally inspired by people I have known or observed. Very often I don't realize this until later, but even when it's deliberate I make a point of taking only pieces and using them as seeds rather than blueprints. The really annoying characteristics, though, they're all mine.
Rola: What can people expect to see throughout the novel?Bill Blais: A hero I don't think they've seen before, characters who behave like real people, and a story that shows what happens when a more realistic 'real life' runs headlong into a fantastical one. There's intense action and PTA meetings (not together, obviously -- though that gives me an idea . . .), secret identities and hideous monsters (both magical and all-too-human), ulterior motives and birthday parties, quiet moments and very hard choices with real consequences.
Rola: What can fans expect from the sequel, Hell Hath No Fury?Bill Blais: In a word? More. The story is darker, the danger more personal, and the action more intense, the places more bizarre. Oh, and there's much more Umber.
Rola: Would you like to say anything to anyone reading this/wishing to read No Good Deed?
Bill Blais: Just that I hope folks give Kelly a try, particularly if they're looking for something a bit different. I really don't think there's a hero out there like her and I'm pretty sure she'll surprise people, just like she did me.
Rola: Thanks Bill!Bill Blais: My pleasure, Rola. Thanks for the great questions!
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